Officials, residents disagree on possible change for Westborough park
By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – The Rotary Club of Westborough’s plans to donate exercise equipment to the town for use at the Veterans Freedom Park has hit a snag. At a Planning Board meeting held Tuesday, Oct. 2 to discuss the donation, town officials and abutters noted that they were opposed to the plan at this time.
The Rotary Club had hoped to donate an exercise circuit and at a future time, a pavilion, for use at the park. The club was willing to donate the materials and labor for both projects. Both were proposed to be installed in spots next to the existing parking lot.
But according to the original agreement when the park was donated to the town, it can only be used for open space and passive recreation; and it also prohibits any structures from being built there. As a result, a deed restriction needs to be lifted from the agreement in order to allow the two Rotary projects to go forth.
A request to remove that restriction was due to come before the voters at the Oct. 15 Special Town Meeting (STM). The article was sponsored by the Board of Selectmen on behalf of the Department of Public Works (DPW).
In an interview after the Oct. 2 meeting, Town Planner Jim Robbins said removing the deed restriction is actually a two-step process.
Developer Francis Zarrette still holds the restriction on the park, Robbins said. (Zarrette donated the park to the town in 2007 as part of a deal that allowed the construction of a housing development that will be located near the MBTA commuter rail station on Smith Parkway and Fisher Street.) As such, Zarrette must approve the removal of the restriction.
Voters at Town Meeting must also approve the removal. It does not matter, Robbins added, which step is done first, as long as both are done.
At the Planning Board’s meeting, abutters to the park expressed concern about how the proposed changes would affect them.
Earl Storey, a supervisor with the Department of Public Works (DPW) noted that he was regretful he did not speak with those residents prior to the meeting.
“I understand and appreciate their concerns,” he said after the meeting. “I should have sat down with them and discussed it with them.”
“We are really only talking about a small ‘envelope’ of space here, less than an acre,” he added. “I would just love to see more people be able to use this park. Four or five people had concerns though and it’s important to listen [to those concerns]. Ultimately it will be up to the voters at Town Meeting. That’s why we live in a democracy.”
Storey noted that one concern abutters currently have is parking can be haphazard when the Westborough High School team cross country team holds meets at the park. He was working with the coaches, he said, to address that issue.
Storey said the DPW and the Board of Selectmen will ask that the article be passed over at the STM. The article may possibly be put on the warrant for a future Town Meeting, he added.
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